Has Chip Kelly Lost It?

Posted: March 11th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1,237 Comments »

Chip Kelly was the King of Philadelphia in January of 2014. The team had just come off a 10-6 season and appeared to be something special in the making. Kelly was the mastermind at the center of it.

6 weeks later he cut DeSean Jackson. That was a puzzling move to more than a few fans. And more than a few people are still struggling to accept that move.

This offseason got off to a crazy start with the news that LeSean McCoy was being dealt to the Bills. There was some logic to the move, but it still was surprising.

And now Kelly has struck again. He traded away Nick Foles…and he brought in Sam Bradford.

What the hell is Chip thinking?

It is very fair to question this move and wonder what Kelly is doing. This is a very risky move. And it is just flat out strange. I never in a million years thought Sam Bradford would be someone Kelly would want, let alone trade for.

I’m a big Chip Kelly fan. I think he’s very smart. When someone like that does something that shocks me, my first instinct isn’t to just hate it. Instead, I wonder what he knows that I don’t know. I wonder what he sees that I don’t see. What made him want Bradford? That’s why I wrote the post trying to explain the move.

Kelly has burned through a lot of trust with his moves in the last year or so. I totally get that and it is more than fair to question him right now. The Bradford deal could be a stroke of genius that will put the Eagles over the top or it could be the beginning of the end for Kelly. This time next year GM Howie Roseman and Coach Bill Davis might be unveiling their plan to fix the Eagles.

I’m still a Chip Kelly fan. I still have faith in him. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that faith was starting to get seriously tested.

* * * * *

Ouch.

* * * * *

The Eagles signed CB Walter Thurmond today. They are expected to sign RB Ryan Mathews.

Good additions, but still risky due to injury histories. Both players are talented and help out areas of need.


How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Sam Bradford

Posted: March 11th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1,099 Comments »

The trade for Sam Bradford has to be part of a move to get Marcus Mariota, right? Just has to.

Or does it?

You and I see Sam Bradford as the guy who tore his ACL in October 2013 and then against last August. We see the guy who failed to look like a franchise QB in St. Louis. To us, while Bradford might be a great guy, he’s been a disappointment since being the top overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

It is very possible Chip Kelly sees something different.

Let’s go back to Bradford the college star. He absolutely deserved to be the top pick. While at Oklahoma in 2008, the Sooners set the NCAA record for points in a season and most games scoring 60 or more points in a row. Bradford had some good pieces around him, but he was spectacular at running OU’s up-tempo attack.

Bradford was used as a pocket passer at OU, but was more athletic than most gave him credit for. He had a strong arm and was an accurate passer. Bradford looked like the total package. He had NFL size. He was a skilled passer. Bradford was athletic enough. He had no character issues. This is a guy you wanted to build your franchise around.

Life hasn’t been so good in the NFL. Bradford played for a highly dysfunctional offense. As a rookie, his top 2 receivers were Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson (Eagles castoffs). His LT was Rodger Saffold. Peyton Manning stepped onto a field with Marvin Harrison, Marshall Faulk and Tarik Glenn. See the difference?

The Rams tried to fix the offense each year, but struggled to add good pieces. WR Brandon Lloyd was the offensive weapon Bradford got in his 2nd year. Andy Reid didn’t give Donovan McNabb star receivers, but he always had a good OL and TE.

Beyond lesser skill players and poor blocking, Bradford has played for very conservative coaches. Pat Shurmur was Bradford’s OC when he got drafted. Shurmur got the head job in Cleveland a year later and Josh McDaniels took over for a season. Then Brian Schottenheimer ran the offense from 2012-14. Bradford hasn’t come close to playing in an offense like the one from Oklahoma.

Bradford put up okay numbers. In 2012 he had a rating of 82.6 and threw for 21 TDs. In 2013 he finished with a rating of 90.9. Those don’t seem great, but remember who was blocking and who was catching. Isaac Bruce and Orlando Pace were long since gone.

Some high picks fail to show they can play at all. Jamarcus Russell was awful. Joey Harrington never threw 20 TD passes in a year or had a rating of 80 or more. Blaine Gabbert was awful. Vince Young was highly erratic in his bizarre career. And so on. Bradford hasn’t lived up to his draft status, but he’s better than those players.

You wonder if Bradford could have a similar situation to Alex Smith. Smith played on a bad offense from 2005-2010. Injuries, poor coaching and little talent around him were too much for Smith to overcome. Then Jim Harbaugh came to town. Smith played much better in 2011 and 2012. He’s now the starter in KC and has had good success there.

Bradford is bigger and stronger than Smith. He has a better arm. Bradford isn’t as mobile, though. If given the right coaching, put in the right system and surrounded by the right talent, you wonder if Bradford could have a similar career rebirth.

It seems like Kelly is guessing that could happen. Part of success is in the NFL is due to character and work ethic. Shurmur coached Bradford for a year. I’m sure Kelly is leaning heavily on what Shurmur says about Bradford the person.

Even if Bradford is a smart, hard-working guy who still has untapped talent, there is the question of injuries. As Kelly himself likes to say…the number one ability is durability. Bradford has played in 49 of 80 possible career games. Even Kelly would have to admit this is an issue. But look around the NFC East. RG3 has dealt with injuries since getting to the NFL. Tony Romo has a bad back. Nick Foles got hurt each of his 3 years. Eli is the only player who can stay healthy. Finding talented, durable QBs is easier said than done.

Back to Foles…this would seem to show that Kelly simply didn’t believe in him. There is no denying that Foles regressed from 2013 to 2014. The question is why and is this permanent. Time will tell. Kelly did not like what he was seeing.

If you’re Kelly and heading into Year 3, you need some real answers. If you didn’t like Foles, who were you going to get? There are not great QB options. Bradford was available. He is a high risk, high reward player. Kelly liked what he saw and must have felt this was a good gamble.

I’ve written previously that you must take risks in order to build a great team. Jimmy Johnson traded away his best player (Herschel Walker) for draft picks. Bill Belichick traded Drew Bledsoe, his franchise’s greatest QB. Pete Carroll traded for Marshawn Lynch at a time when he wasn’t playing well and couldn’t stay out of trouble. Sean Payton acquired Drew Brees when his shoulder was a huge concern and no one knew if he could play, let alone play well.

Chip Kelly has taken plenty of risks in the past couple of weeks. They could help build the Eagles into an elite team or they could end up being a series of disasters that will hurt the team for several years. Only time will tell.

Forget whether you like this deal or not. Focus on trying to understand it. I hated Jeff Fisher getting passed over for Rich Kotite. I hated Reggie White leaving in free agency. I loved drafting Barry Gardner. I loved drafting Ryan Moats.

We’ve got our feelings. We’re going to be right and wrong over time. Kelly is putting his reputation into this move. He’s got something more than an opinion on the line. That doesn’t mean the move will work, but understand there is a lot of thought and effort that went into this. Kelly didn’t wake up today and do the move for the heck of it. He sees this as something that can really help the Eagles.

I hope he’s right.

Bradford isn’t a bust, but you can’t label his career so far anything other than disappointing. Kelly thinks playing behind a good OL in an aggressive system will change that. The 2015 Eagles will be the most talented roster Bradford has ever been on. This will be Bradford’s chance to show the world he can stay healthy and play at a high level.

This will also be the most pressure Bradford has had to deal with. He’s now the QB of a team with a rabid fan base and one that expects to win. And he’s got the NFL future of Kelly and himself riding on his 2015 performance.

What a crazy start to the offseason.

* * * * *

Tim McManus wrote something pretty great recently.

Some of the qualities that make Kelly attractive and successful are the same ones that make him dangerous. He’s an original thinker and a risk-taker. He has strong convictions and he pushes through resistance and at times conventional wisdom to stay true to those convictions. That allows him to break new ground, but at times might send him to land that more experienced men know to be infertile.

Kelly’s approach has worked very well for him for the most part to date, and from that you can draw confidence. He has a history that suggests if you allow him artistic license, he can create something pretty special. But this is a new realm for him, and he’ll have to find and toe the line that separates bold from reckless. As long as he operates in that space, it will never be an easy, comfortable ride. But it will be entertaining.

Dead on the money.

* * * * *

Some people are holding out hope this move helps with a trade up for Mariota. That’s not the feeling I’m getting, but here is Jimmy Bama with a theory.

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Say What?

Posted: March 10th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 564 Comments »

Sorry for the long wait. Long, crazy day at work.

I’m going to keep this short for now. To those of us on the outside, trading for Sam Bradford makes little sense. But Chip isn’t on the outside.

Either Chip loves Bradford and thinks he can turn him into a great QB…

or this is part of an elaborate climb up the ladder to get Marcus Mariota.

I do not love NFL Sam Bradford so I’m hoping this is part of a move to get Mariota. I still trust Chip, but there is no denying that this was completely unexpected and is highly confusing.

Lots more to come later.


2015 Offseason Overview

Posted: March 10th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2,148 Comments »

Happy Free Agency Day!!!

Be patient. Signings don’t officially start until 4pm. Give the Eagles til 430pm before you start complaining about the lack of activity.

Normally I put together a comprehensive offseason plan every year. I’ve been working on it for a couple of weeks, but kept hitting some odd stumbling blocks. The biggest is Marcus Mariota. A normal plan involved signing 1 or 2 key free agents, 2 or 3 mid-level guys and then focusing on the draft.

This year is different. If Chip Kelly really wants to move up for Mariota, the Eagles have to be aggressive in free agency. That could mean 5 or 6 signings. He can’t count on a draft pick until the 4th round. And those guys rarely step in and do much as rookies.

Then the Eagles traded LeSean McCoy. That wasn’t part of my plan and affected my thinking quite a bit. I was surprised at cutting Todd Herremans, Trent Cole and Cary Williams. I figured 2 of them would be back on reduced deals. So clearly I had no idea where Chip was headed.

Most people feel like Chip is thinking this way…load up the defense with talent, the offense can have some of its success due to the scheme. That is an over-simplification, but is probably somewhat right. Chip was willing to pay Frank Gore $5M a year. He was offering Jeremy Maclin just under $10M a year. You can’t say that he’s ignoring the offense. He just feels like that is the side of the ball where he can be more frugal because he can succeed with lesser talent. Anyone who watched the secondary for the last 2 years knows that group could not succeed with lesser talent.

First, let’s talk about the team right now. The Eagles went 10-6 each of the past 2 years. They have a talented roster and a pretty good mixture of youth and experience. Kelly is trying to do something very hard. He’s trying to make a good team great.

Can the Eagles go from a good team to a great team this offseason? Yes, but unfortunately that isn’t likely. It is more realistic to think of that as a 2-year process. And that would require that Chip Kelly and Ed Marynowitz make plenty of good moves and hit a couple of home runs.

Let’s look at the starting lineup as of right now.

QB Nick Foles
RB
WR
WR Jordan Matthews
WR Riley Cooper
TE Brent Celek / Zach Ertz
LT Jason Peters
LG Evan Mathis
C Jason Kelce
RG
RT Lane Johnson

OLB Brandon Graham
DE Fletcher Cox
NT Bennie Logan
DE Cedric Thornton
OLB Connor Barwin
ILB Mychal Kendricks
ILB Kiko Alonso
S
S Malcolm Jenkins
CB
CB Byron Maxwell

P Donnie Jones
K Cody Parkey
LS Jon Dorenbos

The Eagles thought they had RB solved with Frank Gore. That is now back to wide open, with Gore leaning toward going to the Colts. We’ll see how that plays out.

With Maclin headed to KC, there is a hole that must be filled. If the Eagles didn’t want to make a strong push for Mariota, they could focus on getting a WR early in the draft.

RG is a mystery spot. The Eagles have Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin and Andrew Gardner on the roster now. Barbre would be the most likely option at this point. Gardner and Tobin each made multiple starts at RG in 2014. They were adequate, but nothing more. Reportedly the Eagles made a run at Orlando Franklin, but he got big bucks from the Chargers. The Eagles could use a pick on a G and have him compete with the guys on the roster.

My guess is that the Eagles will land a good Safety in free agency. They did so last year with Jenkins. They made a strong run at Devin McCourty, but Emperor Belichick blackmailed him into staying in New England. The media calls it “re-signing” but we know what really happened.

More than a few people have asked about Nolan Carroll taking over at S. I don’t see that happening. I think he could make the move, but the goal is to get good Safety play. I don’t think Carroll would move there and thrive. I’d rather keep him as a backup CB and Dime LB.

The other starting corner spot will likely be another free agent signing. There have been rumors about Tramon Williams. The Eagles have Jaylen Watkins on the roster. They will almost certainly draft at least one CB. Those guys need time to develop. Signing a veteran buys the Eagles a year or two.

* * * * *

I do think Chip wants to make a run at Mariota so he needs to fill holes with FAs where possible. Who might be targeted in the next week?

RB

I’d love to see DeMarco Murray drop his price and come to Philly but that isn’t likely. I’ve been a fan of Justin Forsett’s since college (Cal), but Kelly might want a more physical runner. Several guys are coming off injury. Ryan Mathews is the most interesting. He has big time ability when he’s healthy. Stevan Ridley is coming off a torn ACL and has fumbling issues, but is very talented. Roy Helu is healthy, but isn’t a proven starter. He could be an interesting name. He is a good receiver and solid runner.

WR

Houston cut Andre Johnson and you can’t help but wonder if he’s a guy they might like on a short term deal. Johnson is a descending player to be sure, but still caught 85 passes last year. The most interesting young guy is Michael Crabtree. He is inconsistent, but part of that is on the erratic SF passing game. Crabtree could thrive in Kelly’s system. I would not break the bank for him. Also not sure if he’s Kelly’s kind of guy. Seems like a bit of a prima dona and isn’t a great blocker. I have no idea if the Eagles are the least bit interested in Percy Harvin. He’s certainly a great talent. One guy I like as a reclamation project is Hakeem Nicks. He’s got huge hands. Good RAC skills. Can be physical. Not sure why the drop-off in recent years.

Eagles could be patient and see if any other veterans are cut (Mike Wallace, Pierre Garcon). They could also try to trade for Vincent Jackson, who they looked into last October.

RG

There aren’t great options. Clint Boling of the Bengals is interesting. I was a huge fan of his coming out of Georgia. He isn’t the athlete that Kelly normally wants, but Boling looks better on tape than he does on paper. Does a solid job of blocking on the move when you watch him. Played mostly LG in Cincy. Played lots of RG in college. Also has LT and RT experience. Not worth throwing big money at, but worth talking to. Stefen Wisniewski has played mostly C in the NFL. I haven’t had a chance to study him yet. I don’t have a good feel for what’s going to happen at RG.

S

There are 2 key targets…Rahim Moore and Marcus Gilchrist. Moore is more of a centerfielder type. That’s what I think the Eagles need, but they prefer interchangeable Safeties. They like versatile guys. That would be Gilchrist. Put on the SF game and you see him deep a lot. Put in the DEN game and you see him in the slot a lot. There are other times when he plays in the box. Gilchrist isn’t a great player, but he fits what Bill Davis wants and could team well with Jenkins. Da’Norris Searcy is an interesting option as well. Ron Parker is a player being mentioned as a possible target. I have watched some tape of him, but he failed to stand out.

CB

Tramon Williams is the player who makes the most sense. He’s older, but that’s fine with the Eagles plan. They only need someone to start for a year or two. Davon House is a good young player. He’s got upside, but is also a risk since he doesn’t have a ton of starting experience. I cannot imagine the Eagles will try to bid for Darrelle Revis. He’s going to cost a ton. Mid-level guys like Alan Ball and Walter Thurmond III could be of interest.

* * * * *

My number one goal is getting a good Safety. My preference is Rahim Moore or Marcus Gilchrist.

I also want a veteran CB.

RG is a spot that can wait. The Eagles have bodies there. If the right guy is available at the right price, sign him. The only one who stands out to me is Boling.

There is no RB I covet. I love the thought of Murray, but only at the right price. I think his downhill, power style would be fun to watch in Chip’s offense.

WR is another spot where there is no clear-cut target. I do admit that it would be fun to see Andre Johnson playing for the Eagles.

As much as anything, I”m looking forward to seeing what Chip does. I haven’t had a great feel for his moves so far this offseason. He does things in his own way.

The key to the offseason is figuring out what to do at QB. Do we go for Mariota or build around Nick Foles? Is there someone else Chip secretly covets? I’ll cover QB in a separate post. For now, let’s focus on finding some good free agents.

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Graham In, Gore Out?

Posted: March 9th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 948 Comments »

Monday proved to be interesting for the Eagles.

The good news is that OLB Brandon Graham re-signed with the team. That was crucial. The 3-4 is built around good OLB play. The Eagles cut Trent Cole and needed someone to be the starter at the Predator spot. There were some interesting options available, but none that I really wanted. Keeping Graham was the best option.

There was a feeling that Graham would try to find a role with a 4-3 team where he could be a DE, but he ended up staying in a LB/DE role. He’ll get the one thing he covets most…playing time.

I watched tape of Jason Worilds and never fell in love with him. Good LB, but not a great pass rusher. Brian Orakpo’s injuries made me nervous. Pernell McPhee is a 280-pound chess piece more than a LB. Greg Hardy was fascinating, but had serious baggage and would have been very pricey. Graham really was the way to go.

He will get $26M over 4 years. That’s good money for him and fits the budget.

The odd news is that Frank Gore might not be coming to Philly. He is reportedly talking to Indy about going there. Some say he is now set to join the Colts.

He’s got the right to change his mind. The Colts have more of a power run game, which is what he’s used to. They also have a franchise QB. I can see why he might want to go to Indy.

I’m not happy. Frank is one of my favorite non-Eagles and I looked forward to him coming to Philly. It will be disappointing for that not to happen. I know more than a few fans are very happy. Not everyone was on board with the Gore signing.

The Eagles now must find another RB in free agency and/or the draft. We’ll see what happens.

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